TERMS OF BUSINESS

SEATONS SOLICITORS | TERMS OF BUSINESS

CLIENT CARE

Established in 1983, we are a small/medium sized Solicitor practice based in Corby and Kettering.  We are open Monday to Friday, 8.45am to 5.00pm and evenings and Saturday mornings by appointment only.  We are always happy to visit people in their own home or elsewhere if it is more convenient. We offer a fast, efficient and friendly legal service and are here to help you.  We will also ensure that everything proceeds as smoothly as possible. If you have any questions about our terms or there is something you are not sure about with our terms, please contact us.

RESPONSIBILITY

The Lawyer named above will carry out most of the work personally but you can also contact the Lawyer’s Secretary who will be familiar with the file.  If she is unable to help you herself she will be pleased to take a message for you.  Alternatively you may speak to the Head of Department named above who will also help.

THE FIRM

Established in 1983, we are a small/medium sized Solicitor practice based in Corby and Kettering.  We are open Monday to Friday, 8.45am to 5.00pm and evenings and Saturday mornings by appointment only.  We are always happy to visit people in their own home or elsewhere if it is more convenient.

We offer a wide range of legal services including the following:

House Purchases and Sales

Council Right to Buy

Wills & Probate

Accident Claims

Estate Administration

Trusts

Court Cases

Lasting Power of Attorney

Residential Care

Court of Protection

Civil Litigation

Family Matters – Divorce/Separation/Children Matters

Criminal Cases

COSTS

We offer relatively low and sensible levels of costs.  Our costs are calculated primarily to the amount of work we spend on the matter.  Our costs can increase or decrease depending on the type of case we are carrying out, it’s importance, complexity, urgency and level of skill and specialist knowledge required.  The type of work that we can charge for includes advising, attending on you and others, dealing with papers, letters and telephone calls, travelling and waiting (if appropriate).

COSTS/PRIVATE

The current hourly rate of charging is as follows:-

Directors – £200

Solicitors – £177

Lawyer – £146

VAT is added to all costs and some additional expenses (called Disbursements).  The above costs are reviewed annually and we will let you know of any change.

COSTS ESTIMATES

We will always try to provide some estimate of our likely costs but there are often situations when it is difficult to do this.  If we have to do more or less work than we originally anticipated we will inform you of this and make any adjustment to the estimate.  We will always obtain your consent before incurring additional costs.

PROOF OF IDENTITY

In order to comply with the law on money laundering, we need to obtain evidence of your identity as soon as practicable.  We should be grateful, therefore, if you would provide us with documents to verify your identity and address as set out on the attached sheet.

SMARTSEARCH UK

It is our policy on all transactions to carry out an online search with SmartSearch UK, who work alongside Experian, to validate identification, address and date of birth information in order to comply with Anti-Money Laundering Regulations and to prevent fraud.  Please contact us if you have any questions in this regard.

CONFIDENTIALITY

Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of clients confidential.  This obligation, however, is subject to statutory exception: recent legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing has placed Solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the National Crime Agency.  Where a Solicitor knows or suspects that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering, the Solicitor may be required to make a money laundering disclosure.  If this happens, we may not be able to inform you that a disclosure has been made or of the reasons for it.

Sometimes we ask other companies or people to do typing/photocopying and other work on our files to ensure this is done promptly.  We always seek a confidentiality agreement with these out-sourced providers.  If you do not want your file to be outsourced, please tell us as soon as possible.  External firms or organisations may conduct audits or quality checks on our practice.  These external organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files.

CASH

Our firm’s policy is to only accept cash up to £1,000.  If clients circumvent this policy by depositing cash direct with our bank we reserve the right to charge for any additional checks we deem necessary regarding the source of the funds.

PAYMENTS ON ACCOUNT

It is normal practice of this firm to request clients to make payment on account of anticipated costs and disbursements.  We will let you know if we do require payment on account and tell you the reason why.

INTERIM ACCOUNTS

We may send you bills at interim intervals for work carried out during the conduct of the matter.  This assists your cash flow and enables you to budget for costs.  We are sure that you will understand that in the event of an interim account not being paid we must reserve the right to decline to act for you any further and that the full amount of the work done up to that date will be charged to you.

LIMIT ON LIABILITY

We are permitted to limit our liability to clients in respect of legal matters undertaken.  Having considered both your circumstances and our own, we consider that £3,000,000 represents a fair and maximum limit to our liability. Our Solicitors, Legal Executives and Lawyers can only advise on matters relating to England and Wales. Our Insurers are Enterprise  Insurance Company, policy number 1648096/2013  from 1st October 2013 to 30th September 2014. Further details are available on request.

In reaching this agreement it is also agreed that in the event of any claim arising in respect of professional services, you have agreed that the sum of £3,000,000 represents the maximum total liability to you in respect of the firm, its partners and staff.  This maximum total liability includes any claims in respect of breaches of contract, tort or otherwise in respect of the professional services and shall also include interest.

We acknowledge that the limit in respect of our total aggregate liability will not apply to any acts, omissions or representations that are in any way criminal, dishonest or fraudulent on the part of the firm, its partners or employees, you have agreed that you will not bring any claim of a kind that is included within the subject of the limit against any of our employees on a personal basis.

METHODS OF PAYMENT

We expect our bills to be paid within 28 days.  If not we reserve the right to charge interest on outstanding money at the rate of the Judgement Debt (currently 8%).  Payment should ideally be in the form of a cheque or bankers draft drawn on your account with a UK clearing bank or telegraphed through the banking system to our bank account.   We cannot accept more than £1,000 in cash.

By your acceptance of these terms and conditions (by acknowledging receipt of them) you are deemed to authorise us to deduct any of our fees legitimately payable from any monies that we might hold in our office or client accounts on your behalf before paying any balance of monies to you.  We will provide further information on this point if you require.

PAYMENT BY CREDIT OR DEBIT CARD

In some circumstances we can accept payment of all fees and expenses by Credit or Debit Card.  Where the total amount of fees, VAT and expenses exceeds £500 we may add a 2% surcharge to the total transaction value to offset the payment we have to make to the Credit/Debit Card Company for providing you with this service.

PUBLIC FUNDING

This firm has a Legal Advice Agency contract for criminal work and we will always assess you and advise you as to the possibility of Public Funding for your case.  You may be entitled to Public Funding from your first visit to the office as a result of you being eligible for advice under the Legal Help and Help at Court scheme.  If you are not eligible under that scheme you will be responsible for our costs on the basis mentioned above until such time as a full Public Funding Certificate is granted to you.

Following the granting of a Public Funding Certificate we will be entitled to recover all our costs from the Legal Advice Agency.  If no order has been made as regards costs and therefore you have to pay your own costs and you recover or preserve any money or property then you will have to pay your costs out of such money or property.  We have to pay any money we recover for you to the Legal Advice Agency.  The Legal Advice Agency will deduct the shortfall from the money before it sends the balance of the money to you.

The right of the Legal Advice Agency to make you pay your costs or the shortfall in your costs out of any money or property recovered or preserved is known as the Legal Advice Agency’s ‘Statutory Charge’.  The Statutory Charge is very important and we will explain the operation of the Statutory Charge to you in a separate letter should an application for Public Funding be submitted to the Legal Advice Agency.

JOINT RETAINER

In some cases we accept instructions to act for more than one person (for example husband and wife or a partnership).  Each individual client is responsible to pay our fee in full.  This is known as Joint and Several Liability.  We will deliver only one account for the work carried out on your behalf but if one or more of those persons jointly instructing us does not pay, we have the legal right to fully recover the monies from any one of those jointly instructing us.

ASSESSMENT OF COSTS

You have the right to challenge or complain about our bill.  You have the right to apply for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.  In the event that you are involved in a Court dispute and you are successful it may be that you get some other party to pay your costs.  However, it is rare for the system of “Assessment” of costs as it is known to result in the other party having to pay all of the full amount of the costs.  This is a complex subject and we will be happy to explain this further if you so wish.

FINANCIAL SERVICES

Sometimes conveyancing/family/probate/company work involves investments.  We are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority and so may refer you to someone who is authorised to provide any necessary advice.  However, we can provide certain limited services in relation to investments, provided they are closely linked with the legal services we are providing to you, as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The Law Society is a designated professional body for the purposes of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 but responsibility for regulation and complaints handling has been separated from the Law Society’s representative functions.  The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the independent regulatory body of the Law Society and the Legal Ombudsman is an independent complaints handling organisation.

INSURANCE MEDIATION

We may in the course of a transaction be requested by you to arrange a contract of insurance such as, for example, a restrictive covenant or other defective title indemnity policy.  Usually you will request us to arrange such a policy on the basis that the cost of the policy and convenience of such a policy is more cost effective and quicker than trying to resolve the particular title defect or other issue.

This firm has not conducted a fair analysis of the market and if requested by you to arrange a contract of insurance will not undertake such an analysis.  If you wish to receive advice on the market and the various policies that might suit you then you should obtain such advice from an independent insurance broker. We are not contractually obliged to conduct insurance mediation activities with any particular insurance company.

We are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority.  However, we are included on the register maintained by the Financial Services Authority so that we can carry on insurance mediation activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts.  This part of our business including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.  The register can be accessed via the Financial Services Authority website www.fsa.gov.uk/register.

PROGRESS REPORTS

We will keep you regularly advised of progress in your case and we will try to keep in contact with you a minimum of at least once a month.  We may contact you on your home, work or mobile telephone numbers.  Where appropriate we may also use an email address or fax.  If any of these methods are inconvenient to you please let us know.  We may also from time to time advise you of other services we have to offer, if you do not wish to receive this information please let us know.

DATA PROTECTION ACT 1998

We may obtain, use, process and disclose personal data about you in order that we may discharge the services agreed under these Terms of Business and for any other related purposes including updating and enhancing client records analysis for management purposes and statutory returns, crime prevention and legal and regulatory compliance.  You have a right of access under the Data Protection legislation to the personal data that we hold about you.  For the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998, the Data Controller in relation to personal data supplied about you is the Office Manager.

ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION

Internet communications are capable of data corruption and therefore we do not accept any responsibility for changes made to such communications after their despatch.  It may therefore be inappropriate to rely on advice contained in an email without obtaining written confirmation of it.  We do not accept responsibility for any errors or problems that may arise through the use of internet connection and all risks connected with sending commercially sensitive information relating to you are borne by you.  If you do not agree to accept this risk, you should notify us in writing that email is not an acceptable means of communication.  It is the responsibility of the recipient to carry out a virus check on any attachments received.

CONTRACTS (RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTY) ACT 1999

Persons who are not a party to these Terms of Business shall have no rights under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 to enforce any term of this agreement.  This clause does not affect any right or remedy of any person which exists or is available otherwise pursuant to that Act.

THE CONSUMER PROTECTION (DISTANCE SELLING) REGULATIONS 2000

If your instructions to us have been given to us at a face to face meeting you are a consumer, you would generally have the right to cancel those instructions without any cost to you within seven working days of these instructions being received by us.  You could cancel this agreement either by delivering a note cancelling your instructions to our office or by sending it by post, fax or email.

You may not however cancel the agreement once we have, with your permission, started to do the work on your behalf.  Our service to you will start immediately upon our acceptance of your instructions by telephone, fax, post or email during which time the seven day period will not apply.

By acknowledging receipt of this document, you are agreeing that to avoid any delay in the transaction we may start work on your behalf straight away and we do not have to wait for the cancellation period to expire.

You also accept that due to reasons beyond our control, it is in most cases impossible for us to conclude your case within the thirty day period stipulated by these Regulations.  We will wherever possible provide you with a time estimate in which we hope to complete the matter about which you have instructed us.  We will update you on the progress of your case from time to time usually at least every six months.  If you subsequently instruct us on another matter, you accept that your right to cancel your instructions under these Regulations will not apply.

THIRD PARTIES

These Terms and Conditions only apply between you and Seatons Solicitors.  At no time do they give any benefit or right to any third party, individual or organisation.

LIEN

A lien is our right to keep all papers, documents, money or other property held on your behalf until all money due to us is paid.  We have the right in accordance with this agreement.  A lien may be applied after this agreement ends.

VAT

None of our rates, estimates or charges includes VAT unless this is specifically made clear.  Otherwise VAT will be charged in addition at the prevailing rate at the time of the provision of our services.  Our VAT number is 395 939678.

INTEREST PAYMENTS

If we hold money on your behalf, subject to the terms of these paragraphs, interest will be calculated and credited to you on the quarter date and in accordance with the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules 1991.  Subject to certain minimum amounts and period of time prescribed by the Rules, interest will be calculated and paid at the rate from time to time payable on Natwest Bank PLC’s Business Services Practice Call Deposit Accounts less a sum of £20.00 to take into account the administrative costs of calculation and payment in respect of each amount of interest as and when calculated.  The period for which interest will be paid will normally run from the date(s) on which cleared funds are received by us until date(s) of issue of any cheques in discharge thereof.  In lengthy matters, interest is calculated on our Accounting quarter dates; end January, end April, end July and end October.

Where clients obtain borrowing from a Lender, we will request the lender to arrange that the advance cheque is received by us a minimum of four working days prior to the completion date to ensure that cleared funds are available in time for completion.  You should note that the lender may charge interest from the date of issue of the cheque.

As the liability for your solicitor costs are always yours, although we may be instructed to obtain all or part of those costs from your opponent, our costs bill, once it has been agreed for payment with your opponent, will be secured by money held on your behalf in our Clients Account.  For this purpose such security will be transferred to our Office Account as against the outstanding account.

MONEY LAUNDERING

Where you instruct us to accept or hold or pay over money on your behalf, if the circumstances give us cause that a proper disclosure ought to be made to the Authorities you hereby authorise us to make such disclosure on your behalf.  In such circumstances we shall not be liable for any consequential losses following from such disclosure.

STORAGE OF PAPERS AND DEEDS

Following the conclusion of a transaction or case, we will retain our files of papers for such a period as we deem appropriate in our absolute discretion.  If you require such papers (including pre-registration deeds and documents where the title to a property has been registered at the Land Registry) to be kept for any specific period you must give notice in writing to us to that effect and, in the event of such notice being given, we reserve the right to require you to take personal custody of the papers.  This provision does not apply to current deeds, wills and securities.

Seatons Solicitors provide a safe custody service in respect of wills, deeds and other securities and no charge will be made unless prior notice in writing is given of a charge to be made from a future date to be specified in that notice.

Where stored papers, wills, deeds or securities are retrieved from storage by us in connection with continuing or new instructions, normally no charge will be made.  However, we reserve the right to make an administration charge based on the time spent in retrieving and any perusal, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with the instructions given by or on behalf of the client or former client for whom the papers, wills, deeds or securities are stored.

FUTURE INSTRUCTIONS

Unless otherwise agreed, and subject to the application of the then current hourly rates, these Terms and Conditions of Business shall apply to all future instructions given by you to us.

Although your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business, it should be helpful if you would please acknowledge receipt of the same.

TERMINATION

You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time.  We will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is any money owing to us for our charges/expenses on termination or completion.  If at any stage you do not wish us to continue doing work and/or incurring charges and expenses on your behalf, you must tell us this clearly in writing.

If upon termination of our engagement and subject to you having paid all monies due to us in full, you wish to retrieve your file of documents, you may do so by giving us notice of such within 30 days of the termination.  If no such notice is received, your original documents and our correspondence and working paper files will be destroyed after a minimum period of 6 years.

COMPLAINTS

If you have a complaint, however small, please let us know.  We will try to do everything we can to sort out any problem to your satisfaction.  We operate an internal complaints handling system to help us resolve any issues or problems. The first person you should initially contact in the event of a complaint is the Fee Earner or the Head of Department, both are named above.  If they cannot sort matters out for you then you can raise the matter with the firm’s Complaints Manager, Adrian Chambers. If for any reason we are unable to resolve the problem between us within eight weeks from the date of the complaint, then you can ask the Legal Ombudsman to consider the complaint.  Normally you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving a final written response from us about your complaint or within a year of the act or omission about which you are complaining occurring (or becoming aware of it).  The Legal Ombudsman is based at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ Telephone 0300 5550333 www.legalombudsman.org.uk.

SOLICITORS REGULATION AUTHORITY

We are regulated and authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and comply with the SRA code of conduct 2011. You can find the code of conduct at www.sra.org.uk/code.

IMPROVEMENTS

We hope that you will be satisfied with the service we offer.  However, if you find that there are any areas of our service that could be improved please let us know.  We want to try and maintain and improve our client services.  We will at the end of your matter send you a Client Questionnaire and would ask you if you could please return it to us.

EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY

Seatons is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all its dealings with clients, third parties and employees.  Please contact us if you would like a copy of our equality and diversity policy.

LEXCEL

We have Lexcel accreditation.  Lexcel is the Law Society’s practice management standard.  It is a scheme for law firms to certify that certain standards have been met following independent assessment.  The Lexcel practice management standard is only awarded to Solicitors who meet the highest management and customer care standards.  Lexcel accredited practices undergo rigorous independent assessment every year to ensure they meet required standards of excellence in areas such as client care, case management and risk management.

CONCLUSION

We hope that this leaflet has been of assistance to you.  Please forgive us for writing at such length but we believe that it is much better from everyone’s point of view that the above matters are clarified at the outset rather than at the end of the case.  Please do not hesitate to contact us immediately if you have any queries on the contents of this leaflet.  If you fully understand and agree with the terms of this leaflet we would be grateful if you would kindly indicate this by signing the duplicate copy enclosed and returning it to us as soon as possible.

If you feel that you ought to take separate legal advice from another solicitor or other organisation before signing this letter we will in no way be offended.

TERMS OF BUSINESS

Please sign and return to confirm that you have read and understood and accept these Terms of Business.  If you do not return the form but continue to instruct us you will be deemed, by those continuing instructions, to accept these Terms of Business.

The law governing any disputes arising from these Terms of Business shall be the Laws of England and shall be determined by an English Court.

OUR PLEDGE

We provide our clients with a quality legal service. We will help and support you and will deal with your legal problems efficiently and effectively. We act for clients across England and Wales. We are based in Corby and Kettering in Northamptonshire. We act for local clients in Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough, Northampton, Rothwell, Irthlingborough, Finedon, Thrapston, Desborough, and everywhere else in Northamptonshire and also act for many clients in Leicestershire particularly Market Harborough, and Leicester.

We can act on your behalf in taking legal action and provide the best service to our clients. Please telephone us or use our online enquiry form to receive a fast and efficient client service. We guarantee expert advice and assistance. We can help by making an assessment of your personal issues. You can contact us for a no obligation consultation with a specialist solicitor to discuss your case.

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